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Iran denies downing passenger plane with missile

2020-01-11

Iran on Friday denied claims it downed a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed outside Tehran hours after a retaliatory missile attack on U.S. troops.

The Islamic republic demanded the U.S. and Canada share the evidence they claim showed an Iranian missile brought down the jet on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.

“What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department, told a press conference.

“If they are really sure, they should come and show their findings to the world,” he added.

Iran’s chief investigator said recovering data from the plane’s damaged black box flight recorders could take more than a month and that the entire investigation could stretch into next year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it’s “likely” Iran shot down the jet.

“We and the world will take appropriate action as a response,” Pompeo said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said intelligence suggests the plane was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile. Dozens of Canadians were on board the doomed jet.

President Trump also said evidence points to a missile, and he ridiculed the theory that mechanical failure caused the crash.

The crash came the morning after Iran launched a salvo of rockets at two bases in neighboring Iraq that house American and other foreign troops. Tehran was on alert for a possible retaliatory strike from U.S. forces, a scenario that could have led to an accidental missile launch aimed at the Ukrainian jet, which had just taken off from Tehran en route to Kiev.

The Iranian attack on the bases in Iraq caused no casualties, raising hopes that the spiraling confrontation over the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani would end without further escalation.

Trump has claimed the assassination of Soleimani was intended to prevent “imminent” attacks on American targets. But no one has provided any evidence of such a plot and officials have now pointed to his role in a previous attack that killed an American military contractor to justify the targeted killing.

Congressional Democrats passed a resolution blasting the killing as an unnecessary provocation and calling on Trump to consult with Congress before unleashing war with Iran. Some Republicans agree and a handful of lawmakers bitterly denounced a security briefing as a sham.